A former Barking and Dagenham College student has encouraged others to go down the apprenticeship route.

Charlie Rozee is doing a degree apprenticeship with construction firm ISG and was speaking ahead of National Apprenticeship Week, which runs until February 13.

He was one of the first to take part in a government trial of industry placements in 2019.

At the time, Charlie was studying for a BTEC in construction and the built environment at the college when he was put forward to do an industry placement with ISG.

He is now splitting his time between working as an apprentice commercial manager and studying at London Southbank University.

He said he has known he wanted to work in construction since a conversation, as a child, with his grandad, who ran his own construction company.

For Charlie, the opportunity to get hands-on experience and ‘earn and learn’ was far more appealing than studying full-time.

“I say to all of my mates, try and get an apprenticeship," he said.

" I could not think of anything worse, personally, than going off to uni for four years. Some people do, but I’d rather stay where I am, do what I want to do.”

Dominic Camilleri, divisional director for agility at ISG, said the practical side to the apprenticeships is what makes them so valuable.

“You learn so much more being involved with what you’re doing, and then what happens is that your work contributes to your education, rather than your education contributing to your work.

“So it’s a fantastic route to go by and often puts a lot of clarity behind what you’re learning in the classroom. And that’s the bit that I find is the great benefit behind a scheme like that.”

None of this is lost on Charlie, who is well aware of the boost his career has received as a result.

“I could be doing something completely different now. I could have given up.

“It’s given someone like me an opportunity to do this, when I probably wouldn’t have had that otherwise.”

The college offers new qualifications called T-levels and a range of apprenticeships and traineeships to help young people better prepare for the working environment.

One of only 12 institutes of technology in the country, it has refined its curriculum to better align with the needs of the borough, London and the wider UK job market.

Recognising the skills gap affecting the UK, its approach is designed to provide higher-level technical skills training for students via a more practical, hands-on experience with potential future employers.

Rather than sit in a classroom all day, students are taught on a project-basis, with workshops and teaching from dual professionals.

These are people who work in the industry but also come into the college to teach.

Central to this approach has been the introduction of T-levels last September.

Two-year courses equivalent to three A-levels, they are a combination of classroom learning and work placements, providing students with the experience and knowledge to take into the working world.

T-levels are offered at the college in fields such as engineering and construction.

Jason Turton, chief operating officer at the college, said: “The students are really engaged knowing they’ve got this industry placement coming up, they’re studying to a really high academic level, and they’re doing the practical at the same time.

"So those elements of the T-level is of benefit to those types of learners who want to do that technical level.”

Mr Turton felt it is the combined approach that makes T-levels so valuable to the students.

“It offers students opportunities to experience what their future workplace might look like, because the resources that are here are real professional industry-standard equipment, (and) you’re working with employers on projects.”

To find out more about National Apprenticeship Week, visit apprenticeships.gov.uk/influencers/naw-2022.